Ocean County Press Release
Southern Service Center Home to Nutrition Site
5/01/2013

STAFFORD TOWNSHIP – Simply put, nutrition support is a key ingredient to good health for older adults.

And, with that in mind, the first attendees to enjoy a meal while socializing with old friends and making new ones made their way into Ocean County's new senior nutrition site at the Ocean County Southern Service Center, here.

"The opening of this nutrition site has been in the works for quite a while," said Freeholder Joseph H. Vicari, Chairman of Senior Services. "And while a superstorm may have delayed our efforts, it didn't stop us and here we are today."

Freeholder Vicari joined with Community Services Inc. representatives, local officials and seniors in cutting the ceremonial red ribbon marking the grand opening of the new site. The site opened on the first day, May 1, of Older Americans Month.

"A survey of current congregate nutrition site participants shows that 73 percent are at moderate to high nutritional risk and 93 percent of home delivered meal clients are at moderate to high nutritional risk," Vicari said. "In Ocean County we want to decrease those percentages and insure our seniors are getting a healthy meal.

"In the first three months of this year, 40,980 home delivered meals have been distributed to seniors while 11,172 meals were served at our nutrition sites," he said.

Seniors in the county's congregate nutrition program from Lacey Township south to Little Egg Harbor will be accessing the new nutrition site

"This site is a great location with plenty of on-site parking," Vicari said. "Having easy access to this program is very important for the well-being of our older citizens."

He noted that transportation for some seniors may be available through Community Services Inc., Long Beach Island Senior Services and Stafford Dial-A-Ride.

Ocean County completed the renovation of the kitchen at the Southern Service Center just weeks before the grand opening, providing a new location for the preparation of home delivered meals to the southern part of the County.

"There are about 300 meals now prepared daily at this site and in the months ahead we expect that number to double," Vicari said.

When the Ocean County Board of Chosen Freeholders officially opened the doors of the Ocean County Southern Service Center in 2011, the plan was to use the building to help southern Ocean County residents access county services.

"Making county services accessible is a priority for this Board," said Freeholder Director John P. Kelly. "This was yet another step we took to meet that goal."

Little did the Board know that the center would become a focal point in the county's efforts to assist residents in the aftermath of Superstorm Sandy prior to being able to open the nutrition site.

"During the days after the storm, the National Guard was housed at the facility. In addition, because St. Francis Center on Long Beach Island was heavily damaged by the storm, the center relocated its food pantry, some counseling services and the home delivered meal program to the Southern Service Center. The building also played an integral role in the November 2012 Presidential Election and has been home to the Federal Emergency Management Administration which used part of the facility as a regional Disaster Recovery Center," said Kelly, Director of Law and Public Safety. "All the while we are continuing to offer county services from this site."

Ocean County opened the Ocean County Southern Service Center, located at the corner of Routes 9 and 72 in Manahawkin, in May 2011.

"Originally, the facility was opened to provide residents of the southern portion of the county with the opportunity to access some local senior services programs, the services of the Ocean County Clerk and the Ocean County Surrogate," Kelly said. "Those services quickly expanded to include Veterans Services.

"The site continues to house those county services and now we welcome this nutrition site," Kelly said.

Ocean County had purchased the Route 9 facility, which had been the former St. Mary Parish Center, with an eye toward using the property for a new Stafford Township branch of the Ocean County Library.

However, the downturn in the economy resulted in those plans being delayed for the time being.

The Southern Service Center also houses some senior social/support services such as a satellite location for the Long Beach Island Senior Services and Outreach, which provides information and assistance with an array of benefits and entitlements for older adults. Additionally Visiting Home Care offers Adult Social Day Care: "A Friend's House."

"We are very pleased with the work that goes on at this facility," Vicari said. "From our seniors to our veterans to our citizens that need help with Surrogate Services or the services of the County Clerk, this facility allows easy accessibility to programs and services in a growing area."

Vicari noted that socialization, recreation, educational programs and health screenings will be offered at the nutrition site.

"We want to make sure we are meeting the needs of our seniors," Vicari said. "I believe we truly are."

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